Despite facing mounting domestic and international criticism, an Istanbul court today decided to keep in jail two leading journalists who are on trial for allegedly being part of a plot to topple the Turkish government. The journalists, Nedim Sener and Ahmet Sik, have been in jail for almost a year on charges that many believe to be fabricated in order to silence the two muckrakers. Some background from a good piece in today's New York Times about the trial and the growing threats to press freedom in Turkey:
A year ago, the journalist Nedim Sener was investigating a murky terrorist network that prosecutors maintain was plotting to overthrow Turkey’s Muslim-inspired government. Today, Mr. Sener stands accused of being part of that plot, jailed in what human rights groups call a political purge of the governing party’s critics.
Mr. Sener, who has spent nearly 20 years exposing government corruption, is among 13 defendants who appeared in state court this week at the imposing Palace of Justice in Istanbul on a variety of charges related to abetting a terrorist organization.
The other defendants include the editors of a staunchly secular Web site critical of the government and Ahmet Sik, a journalist who has written that an Islamic movement associated with Fethullah Gulen, a reclusive cleric living in Pennsylvania, has infiltrated Turkey’s security forces....
....Among the most glaring breaches of press freedom, human rights advocates say, was the arrest of Mr. Sener, 45, a German-born reporter who was working for the newspaper Milliyet at the time of his arrest. In 2010 he won the International Press Institute’s World Press Freedom Hero award for his reporting on the murder of Hrant Dink, a prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist who was assassinated in Istanbul in 2007.
Mr. Sener said he believed that he was in jail because he dared to write a book criticizing the Turkish state’s negligence in failing to prevent Mr. Dink’s murder. His defense team says the prosecution’s case rests on spurious evidence, including a file bearing his name that an independent team of computer engineers concluded had been mysteriously installed by a virus on a computer belonging to OdaTV, an antigovernment Web site. He was held for seven months without charges. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in jail.
Speaking in court, Sik -- jailed mostly on account of the contents of a yet-to-be-published book he was working on about the growing power in the Turkish police force of the influential Gulen movement -- flatly rejected the charges against him. "I am here today because of a politically-motivated trial which is devoid of justice and law and which is conducted with falsified and fabricated documents," he told the court. "This trial which is being conducted with falsified and fabricated documents and which is devoid of justice and rule of law is a fake trial, is a show trial and thus an invalid trial. This is not a judicial trial. On the contrary, it is a political trial."
Sik's full statement in court, as well as other documents related to his and Sener's case, can be found here.